Goodbye And Thanks For All The Gefilte Fish

I write this to move forward with my life. There are others who have courageously shared their stories who have suffered far far more than I. I am not a victim of abuse. Perhaps I am a victim of my own idealism.

I was/am a Ger, 15 years. Lived in an orthodox yeshivish community. Shomer Shabbos, Kashrus, Mitzvos.

My wife and I converted together. After 20 years of marriage, 10 in this community, she left. I chose not to remarry right away. My children with my blessing went to public school. My rabbi told me people in the community no longer wanted their children associating with mine, and it was subtly suggested that I should find a more suitable community.

I moved to the “modern” side of town. After 3 years I remarried. My wife, also a ger and a divorcee with kids in public school, had undertaken a similar journey.

We lived on the fringe here. Gerim with a mixed family, kids in public school, and a combined income less than the average single income are square pegs. I grew weary of people looking at me when I came to Shacharis with that expression of, “Oh … that guy.” We were eventually priced out of the eruv and moved. When I cancelled our shul membership the rabbi emailed me to ask why I had made the decision without his input as he thought we were closer than that. I didn’t tell him that I hadn’t been in shul for 3 months and in that time this was the first contact I had with him. I am aware of 10 people who even know we left.

During the last year in this community I got involved in a social media group as I began to realize my faith was cracking. It was good for a year. I felt I had a new anchor. But as I struggled with maintaining my observance I began to question why people believed what they did. I particularly didn’t understand why they did things they didn’t want to do and didn’t halachically need to do. I was publicly accused of trolling when I brought this up in a comment I made. I know I came across as challenging rather than seeking. But even in this forum I was too afraid to be honest and say I needed help, that I wanted to believe the way these people did and found myself unable to do so. Deeply hurt, I realized I was too thin-skinned for this type of interaction and I shut down my media account. I can’t say I ghosted because that suggests I ignored people’s attempts to reach out; no one ever did.

Now, having moved out of the eruv, into a home we can actually afford and accommodates our blended family, our observance has wound down. Obviously being in a community, even a virtual one, is critical to observance, but the irony is that I’ve now realized I didn’t care about the Torah or the mitzvos. It was for me all about the people. All I wanted was to be a part of a community, a family that valued me for me, bruises and all. I discovered that without a community to really be a part of, none of the rituals or holidays or trappings or God meant anything at to me. Megillah Rus speaks to the Ger living with the Jew. All the questions Naomi asks Rus are ultimately about whether or not a Ger is willing to live the Jewish life. But when the Jew is not interested in living with the Ger, when the Jew is apathetic to the converts’ struggle living up to rabbinic standards, when the Jew prefers to send Gerim away or ignore them when their lives no longer fit the accepted norm through no fault of their own, rather than lifting them up, then what are Gerim to do? If the people who claim to speak as the priests of God don’t care, why should I expect God to care? Why should I expect myself to care.

I’ve no desire to start all over and try to find a new community. Perhaps “community” is overrated and it’s time to focus on the people who are in my life through no plan of my own. It’s time for me to see the people who love me as all the community I need.

5 Comments

  1. Rivkah Lewis February 9, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I am very sorry for your experience. There are also ppl who were born Jewish but who did not grow up religious who experience the same feelings and exclusion in some communities. When I realized that there will always be who will not accept me, it hurt but I moved on and found Jews who had more open minds and hearts.

    Reply
  2. Yoeli Tzipori February 10, 2017 at 9:44 am

    I have seen born Jews shunned by their own community. I would like to convey to the writer of this article that it’s not treasure within the community to focus on.
    I myself am homeless, sleeping in a camper parked on the side of city streets. I sometimes forget my situation until shabbat.
    Are there people that look down upon me, of course.
    We don’t live for our peers, we live for Truth.
    Our treasure is of a higher level. No bank account on earth may hold the years of study and mitzvot we build.
    Despite his bad luck with communities, there is some of us that don’t want to pass another Shabbat without his presence at our tables. I pray this man should find our community. Have him contact my Rabbi.

    Reply
  3. Ruth February 15, 2017 at 8:55 am

    You do what’s best for you and your family. There are plenty of other Jewish communities to join, and you don’t have to do that either. There is a lovely world out here where you are not frum-shamed.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous February 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    this is really sad. should not have happened.Would not have happened in many communities

    Reply
  5. Anon February 15, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    This makes me so sad. I’m sorry people treated you the way they did, and thank you for the opportunity to reflect on whether or not I’m doing enough to show the gerim in my life that theyre welcome.

    Reply

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